Did you know that there are wolves living near you in almost every state in the country? Sadly most of these wolves are not living in the wild, but in wolf sanctuaries, which are conservation organizations set up to protect them and help grow their population enough to be re-introduced to the wild. Wolves once inhabited most of North America, from coast to coast, but as humans spread across the states over the last century, these majestic, intelligent creatures (ancestors of “man’s best friend”) have become nearly extinct. Wolves have died out both due to habitat loss and also due to active human hunting and trapping. Today they can only be found in the wild in Canada, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming, whereas they once lived everywhere. Wolf sanctuaries are trying to help protect highly endangered wolves and reestablish populations in places where they once lived.
I personally had no idea that there was a population of over 20 wolves living near me in New York City until I heard about the New York Wolf Conservation Center from Subaru as part of an “Adventure Roulette” initiative. I recently had the chance to visit this wonderful wolf sanctuary less than an hour from the city, and it was an incredible experience! It was amazing to meet and be able to “speak” with these magnificent, super-intelligent animals. If you howl at them, they’ll even howl back at you! Read on to find out more about these wolf sanctuaries, as well as where you can meet some wolves in your local area. Surprisingly, they are almost everywhere — probably in your backyard too!
Watch a video about my adventures howling with the wolves of the NYWCC here!
Wolves play an important part in maintaing our eco-system, and they are crucial to keeping prey populations in check. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that the government understood their importance to the land and they were placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. With this, over the last two decades wolf populations have rebounded to upwards of 6,000 in Northern Rockies and upper Great Lakes, and they’ve been delisted as a federally protected species in several states as a result. But even as their numbers rise in the northern part of the U.S., wolves still face serious threats across the states from those who still don’t understand their importance to our land. Southern wolves like Mexican wolves are still almost extinct. And what’s worse is that corporate agribusiness is pressuring lawmakers to take the Grey Wolf OFF of the endangered species list nationally so that farmers can hunt and trap them—which is crazy because 6,000 wolves hardly constitutes a “large” and viable population (you can protest or comment on the proposed delisting here >).
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Efforts to educate the public on protecting these animals are underway and there are a number of wolf sanctuaries that are promoting the revitalization of the species through carefully managed breeding, wild park reintroduction and inspiring educational programs.
Wolf sanctuaries across the United States have been created for the sole purpose of protecting wolves from the many threats posed by humans, both to their habitats and directly to the packs themselves. These organizations exist to rescue and nurture wolves and wolf-hybrids that have been abused or abandoned, and to educate the public of the myths and poor treatment of these beautiful animals. Many wolves remain on the site of these sanctuaries for a period of time where staff help nurse them back to health and either try to reintroduce them to the wild, breed them, or socialize them to live with humans. Most sanctuaries do a bit of both and are actively working on breeding and eventually releasing wild wolves into protected areas.
Education is also key to wolf conservation efforts, and many wolf sanctuaries invite the public to come learn about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the role we as humans play in protecting their future. Many sanctuaries offer an array of activities that are open to the public year-round, including educational talks, hikes, and even opportunities to meet some of the wolves on site. Want to see a sanctuary first-hand and come face to face with some wolves? Below we’ve listed a few located around population centers in the eastern and western United States.
WOLF SANCTUARIES ACROSS THE USA
+ Mission: Wolf in West Cliffe, Colorado
+ Wolf Connection in Acton, California
+ Wolf Mountain Sanctuary in Lecerne Valley, California
+ California Wolf Center near San Diego, California
+ Never Cry Wolf Rescue in Roseville, California
You can also find the one closest to you through HOWL (Humane Outreach for Wolves League)